The lady occupying the bed beside the window barely makes a bump under the blankets. Her body is shriveled, her skin transparent, and her cheeks, sunken. I watch the nurses attend to the physical necessities of the worn-out frame that has housed her spirit for the past ninety-four years….and yet she smiles.
Hallie – Chapter One by Ritchie Hale
She Seems To Be A Non-Person
The nurses tug at her bed sheets this way and that, seemingly unaware of her groans of pain as they discuss the weather and personal issues of their own lives. She seems to be a non-person, merely a bed to change, a body to bathe, and a room to clean. Her lips move but the sound is so faint that the aides pay no attention. They keep up a steady verbal exchange, speaking at the lady – loudly as if to a hearing-impaired person, and in childish prattle as if to a baby. The lady lifts her right hand from beneath the coverings, exposing gnarled arthritic fingers with nails like the outer layer of an onion, and skin that hangs like drapery over a network of various colored veins and arteries. Finally the nurses are finished and she motions me to come closer.
Hi, Hallie, How You Doin’ Today?
As I approach her bed, I offer a greeting. “Hi, Hallie, how you doin’ today?” A slight whisper mouths almost inaudible words. “Wonderful, wonderful, I’m glad you’ve come.” Her translucent blue eyes are alive with mischief. I lean forward to hear as she divulges the secret of her heart. “Those nurses must think I’m a nincompoop just because I can’t speak as loudly as they.” A rush of pink infuses life into her sallow cheeks as she realizes what she has said.
“It’s okay, Hallie. I don’t think what you said would be construed as unkind.” A comfortable silence settles between us as we gaze into each others eyes. Occasionally she asks about my family and I answer in great detail. She wants to hear about my daughters, my young son, and about “that precious man you married.” Her eyes sparkle as the events of my life unfold before her keen imagination. She speaks spiritual things imparting tidbits of wisdom and sage advice.
Psalm Of Life
Asking about my latest writing ventures, she reminds me that I shouldn’t write about trivial things. “Only when you write about noble ideas will your writing endure to the next generation.” She quotes a little of the Psalm of Life by HW Longfellow. “…but to live that each tomorrow finds us farther than today…let us then be up and doing with a heart for any fate, still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor, and to wait.”
“That’s my favorite, you know,” she whispers.
“Yes, I read that in one of the diaries you gave me.”
Her eyes have a far-a-way look as she responds, “I started those diaries when I was 18 years old.”
Jotting down a couple of figures on a scrap of paper I quickly get the dates I need. “Let’s see, Hallie, that would have been in 1911, right?”
“You really have been reading my diaries”
“Guilty! I also know that you began this particular diary using a quote by Edgar Guest, “Life is what you make it.”
A grin spreads across her entire face and with noticeable animation she says, “Oh, I’d forgotten that. I really like his poetry. There were such words of wisdom in his poetry and writings. I didn’t know it then – but I discovered later how much I would rely on those words.”
I’m Sorry To Be A Bother
I watch Hallie as she sinks lower in the bed, exhausted from our conversations. Her eyes close for a moment and then speaking with difficulty, “Honey, can you scoot me up on my pillows and tuck my blankets around my shoulders? I’m cold.”
Plumping the pillows and arranging the blankets was a regular routine every few minutes. She was never completely comfortable, but would finally sigh with relief; exhausted, “Honey, I’m sorry to be such a bother.”
“Hallie, I love you and love is never a bother. You go ahead and rest for a while. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
(Read – Chapter Two)